Trying to find my way around BMD & GRO Index

+8 votes
Hi everyone
I am trying to find my way around BMD & GRO, as it is required on the Orphan Trail.
* I dont see an option to enter parents names in the search field.
* I have not yet found a record that gives even 1 parent's name;
If there are 3 John Smith's born on the same date same place, how would you know which one was yours?
* I have only ever found 1 usable record.
* Am I on the wrong seach link?
* Are their records limited & the ones I am looking for are not in their database?
* Or am I just doing something wrong?
in Genealogy Help by Shaun Doust G2G6 Pilot (361k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith

4 Answers

+5 votes
Best answer
I find it is best to combine using the GRO index with the census and other records to narrow down the parents names....
eg. you have 3 John Smith all born same year in the same registration district, but they all have different mother's maiden name (although a (-) indicates an illegitimate birth)

take the surname and mother's maiden name AND the registration district and search +/- 2 year batches and make a list of all possible siblings with same mother's maiden name...Then search the census using the Registration District name in the "keywords" field if using Ancestry. And search until you can find a family that fits the majority if not all the siblings - hopefully this will give you the parents names...then you just need to cross check the marriages to see if there is a marriage fitting the right time/place and parent's first name.

In most cases this works well enough.

Another tip is to search the 1939 register which gives the actual date of birth, which can help narrow down the birth to one or two quarters ( this only works if the person can be found in 1939!)

And another tip - try to combine the GRO with baptism registers if you have access to them..some baptism registers give date of birth which isn't always in the transcript/index
by Michelle Wilkes G2G6 Pilot (174k points)
selected by Dee Baker
Thank you Michelle, yes I have noticed that Baptism registers are very informative and readily available in most searches. It's just the Births that are so difficult
+8 votes
On FreeBMD, you won't find any parents' names, except for some of the later births, when you will find the mother's maiden names.
There is nowhere to enter parents' names in the search.
If you found three John Smiths, you would not know which one was yours unless you already knew the mother's maiden name and it was a birth after 1912.

On GRO Services, which only does births and deaths (not marriages), you will find the mother's maiden name for births, and the age for deaths.  Births only go up to 1917, and deaths only go up to 1957.
by Ros Haywood G2G Astronaut (2.0m points)
Also both start in 1837 with the commencement of Civil Registration.
Thank you Ros, Lynda and Matthew.
In the BMD, under District there does'nt seem to be a Lowestoft listed in Suffolk. Is there perhaps an alternate name for this district? Or is it just not on there
That's because Lowestoft is not a district in and of itself.  It is in the Mutford Registration District, which has 24 other towns/villages in it.  That's the way Registration Districts work - they cover an area.

The districts are not geographical districts but registration districts. If you click on the name of one in FreeBMD you can see precisely which parishes were included. Lowestoft seems to have come under the district of Mutford.

Thank you Ros, I have learned somthing valuable.
I will have to check Districts when I want to research.
Thank you for the link Matthew, it will be very helpful.
Most of the time, don't try to enter a county or district at all.  It's a last-resort tactic for filtering a really long list.

Or, sometimes, you can search on just surname and district and get a list of all the entries for a family, if they're new to the district.  If they aren't, you'll at least get a feel for how common the name is in the area.
Thank you RJ, for the good advise, I will give that a try
+6 votes
Both websites are ... idiosyncratic ... and there are numerous tricks and tweaks that can be learned. BMD and GRO use the same underlying data and they usually agree but transcription errors usually only appear once which can be very useful. Mother's maiden names appear on the GRO index from the start which is a huge benefit over the BMD one.

To answer your specific questions: you can't search for parents names (except for mother's maiden names), you cannot differentiate between births with the same name in the same place in the same quarter - you would have to order the certificates from the GRO.

If you post a few BMD entries you can't find on GRO I will check them for you and see if there's anything weird going on.
by Matthew Fletcher G2G6 Pilot (136k points)
Well, you could differentiate same-name births a *bit* if you used the GRO site, because it would have the mother's maiden name.
They don't quite use the same underlying data, because the GRO had the registers reindexed.  The new index is only on their site.

All the other sites are based on the microfilms of the old index books.  The scanned images of the microfilms are on FreeBMD and elsewhere.  There are several transcriptions, which of course all contain errors.  But they're all just transcriptions of the index books without any access to the registers.
+5 votes
The registers at the GRO are bound up in order of district and subdistrict and date of registration.  Obviously people ordering copy certs would rarely know the exact date of registration, so the staff could be faced with a long search.  So they made a name index.

That way, if they were given an approximate date and place, they'd hopefully only have a short list of register pages to look at.

There was never any intention of taking information from the index without looking at the register.

Last time I ordered there were 3 ways -

- give the volume and page and they send it

- give names and dates and they search

- give volume and page and check data, and if the register entry doesn't match the check data, they don't send it.

But ordering the wrong cert has always been a common occupational hazard for people doing 19th century England.
by Living Horace G2G6 Pilot (646k points)
edited by Living Horace
Thank your for that info RJ, much appreciated

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